Lee Lighter, special agent with the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, outlined the steps used to make meth for social workers, juvenile justice workers and others Oct. 8 in a workshop sponsored by Mid-Sioux Opportunity, Inc.
Some meth ingredients are toxic, especially when mixed and cooked. Their quantities may be limited in stores as they are known to be used in making meth.
Lithium batteries, used in some cameras, are disassembled so the lithium is added to anhydrous ammonia, which is sometimes stolen from tanks. One battery is needed for 100 to 150 pseudoephedrine pills.
The mixture can cause an explosion and can eat through metals. The resulting meth oil becomes the base form which is extracted, often using a Mason jar device.
It is soaked with a starting fluid such as ethyl ether, Coleman fuel, paint thinner or toluene, according to Lighter. The meth maker then filters or decants, possibly using a turkey baster, to separate the liquid from the solid sludge.
Even exposure to meth labs by investigating officers has been known to cause liver damage. Protective gear is needed, even before the chemical smell is noticed, to continue working.
"These children live in these clouds," Lighter said about the children living where meth is made. "They probably eat where the cook took place."
The liquid can be converted to HCI salt with a generator, Lighter explained. That result is then filtered and dried to make the finished product. He knows that is what is going on when he sees aquarium tubing sold in convenience stores due to demand in the neighborhood.
Some dealers have a further step of recrystallizing with acetone. Each pound of meth produces seven pounds of hazardous waste, according to Lighter. That waste can end up in ditches along the highway, making a hazard for children walking or people cleaning up roadsides, the agent explained.
The workshop, "Identification of Methamphetamine Lab Components," was given Tuesday for area health care and law enforcement personnel by Dave Schipper of the state fire marshal's office.